General Policy Committee discusses requiring notification of rent increases or lease termination

Gainesville City Commission Reina Saco explains her proposal for requiring notice of rent increases or lease termination

BY JARRED SPANOS, Alachua Chronicle correspondent

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Gainesville City Commission, sitting as the General Policy Committee, discussed a potential ordinance that would set a minimum notice period for rent increases or lease terminations at their February 9 meeting.

In an effort to increase stability for renters, the City is looking at ways to keep renters and landlords more protected and educated in regard to rent increases and lease terminations.

Katherine Pearson, a Policy Research Fellow, said, “According to the University of Florida’s Shimberg Center for Housing Studies’ 2022 Rental Market Study, Alachua County houses just over 33,000 renters; of these renters, 29% are classified as low-income or cost-burdened renters.” The Shimberg Center classifies a renter as cost-burdened when he or she pays at least 40% of their income on rent. The National Low Income Housing Coalition reports that in recent years, Florida has lost almost half a million affordable rental units, which created an affordable housing shortage. To combat this crisis, some municipalities have implemented and expanded the minimum notice period for lease termination and rent increases, according to Pearson.

Some of the notification requirements only apply to people who rent without a specific duration. Pearson said, “A tenancy without a specific duration entails that no predetermined end date of the lease has been set in either a verbal or written contract, and some notification requirements also establish a private right [of action].” A private right of action allows an individual to enforce rules in a court of law.

Florida statutes currently do not regulate notification requirements for rent increases, but Pearson said the Florida Residential Landlord and Tenant Act regulates requirements for lease terminations. Under the current statutes, landlords are required to give renters who pay annually 60 days’ notice, renters who pay quarterly 30 days’ notice, renters who pay monthly 15 days’ notice, and renters who pay weekly seven days’ notice before termination. A Florida Attorney General opinion asserts that the state will not move to preempt local legislation that does not violate or reduce the potency of state statutes.

The Gainesville City Commission passed a Rental Housing Ordinance in 2020, which created efficiency standards and landlord permits. The Rental Housing Ordinance was amended in 2022 to establish the Rental Housing Mediation Program, which will be implemented in the spring. Pearson told the commission that Gainesville is not alone because many cities and counties are facing similar issues, including Miami Beach, Miami-Dade County, Lake Worth Beach, and Tampa. Pearson said, “In addition to these four cities and counties, there are other cities and counties that have legislation of this type.”

All four of the cities require notice when a 5% rent increase is introduced. In Miami-Dade and Lake Worth Beach, a 60-day notice is required before a lease is terminated. This could be enforced in court because both the tenant and landlord have a private right of action under their ordinances.

Advantages and disadvantages

A minimum notification period, according to Pearson, “provides tenants with time to find new sources of income to pay for increased rent or find new housing; could decrease eviction rates and even homelessness, preventing the likelihood tenants are blindsided by rent increases or lease termination; could reduce stress level; and if rental assistance is available, a minimum notification period could provide tenants with more time to successfully complete the application process.”

Pearson said one disadvantage of the policy would be that the implementation of notice requirements may require educational information to be distributed to tenants, which could cost time and money. She said the policy could also damage relationships between the City of Gainesville and local landlords. “Additionally, increased notice requirements for lease terminations could potentially decrease the ability for tenants to end the lease with shorter notice, which some tenants may disagree with or oppose,” said Pearson.

Another potential disadvantage is that the City might need to establish a reporting function fit to deal with complaints of this matter, which come at a cost. Pearson added, “Alternately, the City could write legislation establishing a private right for citizens to take violators to court; however, cost-burdened and low-income tenants may be disadvantaged by this option if they lack the financial or legal resources.”

Commission discussion

Commissioner Reina Saco said she originally became aware of this in Miami-Dade, “back in the fall… when more people were making use of it.” Renters often lease under a mutual understanding with their landlords, she said. “It is very much a gentlemen’s agreement, and there is nothing in writing, and there are no protections beyond the little that the statute gives at the state level.” Saco said, “I think we can all agree 15 days [for a month-to-month renter] is not enough to pack up our homes, let alone find a new place and make all of the arrangements necessary.” The implementation would provide a buffer, according to Saco.

Commissioner Casey Willits said, “This is something–the moment I got on the commission, I was ready; once I learned about the research potential, I wanted to start.” 60% of people in the City of Gainesville are renters, and Willits said, “In my district, it is closer to 90%, and I can’t imagine us not looking at this proposal seriously, and I certainly hope it is something that we can push all the way through and put before the commission.”

Commissioner Bryan Eastman said people are often at the whim of their landlord: “A lot of the time you are on these month-to-month leases, with the hope that the landlord will eventually kick you out and bring someone else in, and there has to be some kind of protection, particularly as you hear more and more sad stories from the few areas that we still have who are, you know, 50% below AMI.”

Commissioner Ed Book questioned the effectiveness of the ordinances that were given as examples, due to their recent implementation. Saco said, “It is new, but it seems to be, from folks who have been interviewed and from news reports – the awareness helps almost as a watchdog.” Even if it is not used, the notification could act as a deterrent, Saco said.

Alachua County Labor Coalition supports the proposal

The Alachua County Labor Coalition (ACLC) announced Thursday that they had adopted a position in support of this, said Bobby Mermer, ACLC Coordinator. “We believe 60 days is a nice sweet spot,” said Mermer. He said renters could use the 60 days to look at their finances and determine if their budget can afford an increase. Too much time can create pressure on the tenant to agree to an increase that may not make sense. Mermer said, “I think the idea of going through the mediation program to provide tenants with channels in which they seek recourses to help them assert their private right of action is a very good start. However, I would like to see the City either put together or contract out a brochure on how to assert your private right of action as a pro se litigant.”

Private action vs. penalties

Saco favored enabling the City to fine landlords who violate the ordinance instead of just having a right to private action, but added, “I don’t want to have an extra chore put on our rental housing division or on housing or on sustainable development if they are not at capacity to maintain,” said Saco. She wanted to know if there were funds available and add that provision to the ordinance as a placeholder.

Interim Policy Oversight Administrator Morgan Spicer said a staff working group would have the opportunity to further adjust some of those concerns before they come back to the commission.

Mayor Harvey Ward said, “As we move forward, adding things to our existing Rights for Renter’s packages, I would really like us to consider how we might, as an organization, be helpful to renters and landlords in understanding what they are getting into.” Ward emphasized the lack of sophistication renters and landlords have when they’re just starting out. He said that while bigger landlords have a pretty good process for educating tenants, newer landlords may not do as good a job. “There’s got to be some organization that could, on a two to three times a year basis, offer some education,” said Ward.

Motion passes unanimously

The motion, which passed unanimously, was to ask staff to prepare an ordinance requiring a 60-day notification for an increase in rent above 5% or termination of leases without a specific duration and to look at options for enforcement; the second component of the motion was to ask staff to explore the creation of educational materials about all the options for renter protections and how tenants may exercise those rights.

    • That’s right…they should mind their own business and get the panhandlers out of medians, & put a limit on the amount of vagrants allowed in the city…the taxpayers should be notified at least 30 days in advance if we are to get an increase in panhandlers & vagrants at Grace…we need bum control, not rent control…it’s total BS that the GNV CC can vote themselves a raise of more than 5% when inflation & taxes makes it hard to
      Provide “affordable housing”…I doubled my affordable rents because of their landlord ordinance fee…I have room to raise rents another 25% so don’t be rocking the boat CC! Stay in your lane!

  • What about the taxpaying residents of the city?
    We’re at the whim of their idiocy.
    Who/what is going to protect us from that?

  • What about when you have a bad tenant on section 8 who’s turned your unit into a trap house? it should be easy to evict the tenant. The landlord should not have to pay a fee to evict drug addict and drug dealing tenants.
    What about a bum tenant who doesn’t pay the rent? The landlord should not have to pay a fee and there should be express evictions….
    GNV CC…give the landlord something…express evictions to remove bad tenants!

  • I can guarantee you one thing…rents are going to go up because of inflation. Can the GNV CC
    Make it so that grocery stores and restaurants can’t increase their prices
    More than 5%? can the GNV CC do something about gas prices at gas stations too? Why couldn’t we rate-cap the GNV CC salary increase @ 5%? I want a doubled pay raise like theirs too!
    Why is Saco wearing that ridiculous diaper over her face? Cause she’s talking a lot of commie sh!t.

    • I was waiting for an asinine mask comment. Do you say the same thing to people who wear motorcycle helmets?

        • Wearing a mask is a health and safety matter as much as wearing a helmet is. Personal choice, just like choosing who to vote for.

      • If Saco wore a helmet at a CC meeting and also wore a mask at the same time I’d say something too!!! thanks for taking the bait….I can trigger a liberal commie Marxist so easy…put your Mask and helmet on and go back to your safe place which the
        Rent will be going up because the city is interfering with private property rights…🤣

      • If we follow the science, we must assume that Willits and Saco likely view themselves as unattractive.


        Lose weight if anyone wants to mitigate potential Covid harm. Maybe the city should purchase three or four Walmart-style ‘fat carts’ for the commissioners to use, especially after their recent pay raises.

        • Right on Peabody…the psychology behind the face mask originated in China…”it’s to scare people and make them stay away” and then you get the social distancing from that…now it’s a political statement for the leftist fascist Marxist commi great resetters and the ugly people…

  • “…and to protect landlords.” How exactly does this PROTECT landlords??

    This type of nonsense is EXACTLY why Gainesville has an affordable rental unit “crisis.” You’d have to be crazy to be a landlord in Gainesville, much better off selling the property than renting it.

    • The tyrants on the GNV CC and the whining Marxists who are complaining about high rents needed to mind their own business…all these actions did is
      Raise rents even higher…all the extra BS and costs get passed on to the tenant…now they want to back-door rent control. The unintended consequences of government intervention. —Next thing you know, they’ll be saying we have a “rent violence crisis” or some other BS crisis…don’t blame the “homeless violence crisis” on me…the GNV cc created the homeless crisis because of the come one come all from everywhere Taj Mahal Grace marketplace bum magnet….

        • Been to the grocery store lately? Hired a contractor? Did your property tax go up? I could go on and on…small landlords have to pay over $100/yr for each one of those landlord permits for each unit…it all gets passed to the tenant.

  • It seems like a predictable consequence of these sorts of ordinances is fewer people willing to invest in rentals. When the landlords are not permitted to protect their real estate investments, they’ll sell the properties and invest elsewhere. That seems so obvious…but perhaps the Commissioners want to push out small landlords so that those properties are available for big developers to buy, tear down, and replace with apartment buildings? Could this be part of a government/big business alliance to remake Gainesville neighborhoods?

    • Maybe that’s why their requirement for landlords to get permits only applies to people who own less than 4 rentals. The slumlords who own more than 4 units are exempt. Ward and Co want to end single family home ownership and want to force folks who own one or two rentals to sell out to the big developers. All they care about is increasing the property tax potential of every square inch of this town.

      • If the developer gets five adjacent units on different lots, he can consolidate them and get out from under their tyranny….that’s what they’re doing. That’s what I did. And I doubled my rents because they aggravated me…
        All they did was make the rich get richer and increase rents….hardee har har…the unintended consequences of government intervention…

        • It’s wasn’t unintentional. Hayes-Santos did the same thing to his property. Ward’s dad is exempt too.

  • Most conventional multi family housing is on a term lease initially. But there is verbage In the lease that says the contract automatically renews on a month-to-month basis if no notice is given by landlord or resident 60 days in advance or 30 or 90 whatever the contract States of moving out. And some are crazy enough to even say that in that holdover period of not being a contract or months my faces your rent will be equivalent to two times the rent or the current market rent plus $200 month to month fee. Which is outrageous in itself. Please look into including this scenario with your your plan because if anything changed the least contract during the lease periodeach party has to agree In writing

  • The idiots should instead put Section 8 funding into owner-occupied units for single adults with clean records starting after LOCAL high school graduation. Stop attracting non-local hopeless souls who don’t belong and have no future in a college town. And stop subsiding Section 8 landlords and trailer parks owned mostly by big out of town rental vampires.

  • By trying to make more “affordable housing” they will have the complete opposite effect. More regulation = more fees/cost to landlords. They will have to pass on the additional costs in the form of higher rents & deposits. See how much more ‘affordable’ housing and rents will be. They want all of us in/or among section 8 neighborhoods.

  • Crisis after crisis! This is deliberate; no one on the GNV CC or AC BOCC is smart enough to think them all up! They are getting input from outside (Comrade Biden)! Smokescreens to cover up their spending on anything but what benefits you and I! Where is the action to repeal the elimination of single family zoning? Where are the incentives to attract and retain police and fire personnel?

    Unfortunately for honest people, this form of government will not change anytime soon! The Democratic party has had a stranglehold on AC and GNV since 2000! I would think they could have built a grocery store in East Gainesville by now. Do you notice the similarity to what is going on in DC with Comrade Biden at the helm?

    The crime rates in East Gainesville are a major deterrent to business investments in that part of the city! With their recent uprising against the worthless AC BOCC building “Workforce Housing (real bill paying home buyers and renters)” in their neighborhood, East Gainesville leaders squashed another attempt at improving the landscape of their beautiful half of the city!

    The Democratic Party wants to keep “people” dependent on handouts; thus all the huge inflation building bills that increase inflation and increase the East Gainesville communities dependence on continuing handouts!

    Democratic Party = Big Government and addictive free handouts to their voting base!


  • The message is clear. Landlords are evil capitalists and renters shouldn”t have to pay the market rate. So…..someone has to pay! That would be you & me and now the city commisioner’s are talking about ‘helping’ pay GRU bills for those in ‘need’. To me it means they will cost shift from those whom they deem well enough off to afford AC and add it to our bills to subsidize their rates.

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